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Farley-Bouvier Backs Stimulus Payments For Immigrants

This is a picture of Massachusetts State Representative Tricia Farley Bouvier
Facebook: Tricia Farley-Bouvier
Tricia Farley-Bouvier

Democrat Tricia Farley-Bouvier represents the 3rd Berkshire District in the Massachusetts Statehouse. She has signed on to a new bill that would provide federal stimulus money to immigrants working in the commonwealth who were excluded from the CARES Act, which provided $1,200 checks to most Americans. Farley-Bouvier spoke with WAMC about getting COVID-19 relief funding to immigrant taxpayers.

FARLEY-BOUVIER: In the response, both the state and federal response, to the economic difficulties, we have tried to get money into the hands of families that are struggling. And the federal bill that everyone is familiar with, for that $1200 stimulus check that people got, actually left out a huge swath of taxpayers, in the Commonwealth and across the country. And those are people who pay their taxes through ITIN numbers or Individualized Tax Identification Numbers. And those individuals and their families have been completely left out. As a matter of fact, if you are a US citizen, and your children are a US citizen, but you file your taxes, which could very well mean you're married to somebody who is an ITIN holder- doesn't yet have a Social Security Number- your entire family is cut off from that stimulus check. And I think that's just wrong.

WAMC: So, how will this legislation bridge that gap?

So it would give ITIN holders a similar stimulus package to that of the federal government. So the Commonwealth would go through and see who files their taxes through it numbers and provide that stimulus through Massachusetts funds.

Given the staggering number of folks being laid off during this this wild time, do you think that the state could actually follow through on that level of detail with this number of people?

So the details, I think, they're more than capable of doing as far as the the administration of it. Of course, every single thing we do has a price tag and we have to carefully balance that. But you know, it's it's also just a matter- Well, it's a matter of a number of things. One is fairness. These individuals pay their taxes, follow those rules. And when we say taxes, it's, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars taxes a year that ITIN number holders pay. And we also know that in order to keep all of us safe and well, all of us need to be safe and well. So it's clearly the right thing to do.

The immigrant community is one that's often hard to communicate with, in Massachusetts and indeed, across the country. I'm interested, have you thought about sort of how this would be communicated to those folks who maybe don't have a strong relationship or dialogue with the government?

Because that- there's already a communication stream to people. People already pay their taxes. And so whichever way, whichever vehicle they're paying their taxes with, whether it's through, you know, direct deposit, or direct transfer from their bank accounts or through checks in the mail, that's the same system that would be used.

You're working on this with your colleague from from Somerville, Christine Barber. I'm interested- what was that conversation like about these very different communities out here in Pittsfield, and more in the Boston metro area?

So, Representative Barber and I have a long standing relationship in advocating for immigrants. She is my partner in the driver's license bill. And while our communities are different, the needs of immigrants are very, very similar. And we know that, you know, the Berkshires has its fair share of immigrants who really contribute to our community, make it better, and we represent immigrants as much as we represent anybody else in our districts.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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